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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
BROOKSVILLE - Just hours after meeting with Hernando High administrators Friday afternoon, Matt Smith was helping out at the Leopards' annual wrestling tournament.
Which is interesting because during that meeting, Smith was informed he would be fired as the school's football coach.
"That's what kind of guy he is," Hernando athletic director Brent Gaustad said.
Citing a desire to return to the glory days of what was once the county's preeminent program, Gaustad and the school's principals decided against retaining Smith.
The Springstead graduate went 7-23 in three seasons. Though Hernando made the playoffs in 2005, it did not finish with a winning record under Smith and was blown out in its lone postseason appearance.
Smith said he was more "disappointed" than surprised, and said he is determined to continue coaching football somewhere.
Whether that involves leaving the school that has long been his home remains to be seen.
Just three years ago, Smith was the school's wrestling coach, football coach and athletic director. But he gave up his athletic director duties in 2004 and this past spring resigned after 10 years at the helm of the wrestling program.
"I'm going to take some time to make a decision on what I do next," Smith said.
Hernando finished 2-8 this season. The Leopards won their season opener against eventual county champion Central, then lost their next five games.
Hernando had a bit of bad luck, losing five games by six points or fewer.
Still, Gaustad said he thinks the program can reclaim its spot atop the county.
"Basically, we're trying to get Hernando back to where it was," said Gaustad, who hopes to hire a new coach by the end of January. "We've had three losing seasons, and you hate to judge everything by wins and losses, but we just want to make sure we are going in the right direction."
Times staff writer David Murphy contributed to this report.